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People Matter March 2016

Are you ready to live with the new National Living Wage? 

The much trumpeted National Living Wage comes into force in April. Are you ready? With a jump in minimum wages (for those aged 25 and over) to £7.20 it is going to have a big impact on many organisations. Let’s take a look at what businesses need to consider.

Some budgeting clearly needs to take place. The new rate represents a 50p rise on the current minimum wage and the money will need to be found from somewhere. A report from the Chartered Institute of Professional Development found a split in where businesses saw the money coming from. Many large businesses felt the National Living Wage would stimulate increased productivity. Smaller businesses were more downbeat, expecting profits to take a hit.

Think beyond the £7.20 figure! That may be the headline rate for April 2016, but don’t forget that it’s expected to rise year by year to £9 by 2020. And then there are your other pay grades. Will these have to rise too, to maintain the differentials for various roles?

The ‘age 25’ threshold may catch some employers out. Are your records good enough to pick up when younger members of staff turn 25 and potentially become entitled to a higher wage? Make sure your systems and payroll capabilities are up to scratch.

Stay positive! Big business is expecting more productivity, so think about this for your business too. Research by The Living Wage Foundation found that increased payroll costs were offset by improved staff performance, retention and lower absenteeism. The HR Dept can help you address all your payroll needs, so get in touch for advice and solutions.

No time for bad time keeping

Employers are not as hot on countering staff lateness as they perhaps should be. One UK survey suggested that a staggering two thirds of employers don’t even monitor it. Over time the effects add up and bad habits become worse as employees realise they can get away with tardiness – the effect on productivity could be huge. Understandably, this is a cause for concern and 87% of employers in the survey said they found lateness a matter of great irritation.

Now more than ever, though, you can do something about it and The HR Dept can help. We’ve teamed up with industry experts uAttend to offer you great deals on the latest time-management solutions. These advanced plug-and-play systems integrate seamlessly into your business to put you in control of attendance. Call us to arrange a free online demo.

Holiday-pay rulings strike again

If you’re getting déjà vu about holiday pay, we’re not surprised! First there was a judgement that regular overtime must be factored into holiday pay. Now the courts have agreed that commission must be reflected too, following the case of Lock v British Gas. The underlying principle is that workers should not be put off from taking annual leave – in this case by the indirect financial penalty of missing out on commission. British Gas have returned to the courts hoping to lodge an appeal, so watch this space for updates.

Happy St Patrick’s Day 

17 March is St Patrick’s Day: a time of celebration for the Irish during which they showcase their country and culture to the world. And plenty of non-Irish people in the UK and beyond are not averse to donning green garb and consuming a Guinness or three in the evening.

On such a feel-good day, it’s great to highlight the benefit of accommodating minorities and their customs. St Patrick’s Day is well known the world over, but there are plenty of other occasions that will be important to different ethnic groups. Recognising events relevant to some of your workforce, either by obliging their wishes to take part or by marking them within your organisation in some way, is a great way to build camaraderie and loyalty among staff and inject some extra fun into the workplace.

That’s the positive. But it is also worth highlighting that Employment Tribunals are littered with cases involving Irish people and others who have been discriminated against because of their ethnic origin. Ethnic origin is one of the protected characteristics enshrined in the 2010 Equality Act, and ‘banter’ is not considered an adequate defence for insulting someone’s ethnic origins. So businesses should keep a sharp look-out for such discrimination happening. Particularly as the pay-outs when complaints are upheld tend to have a few zeros at the end of them.

For help developing policies that create a thriving culture within your business, call The HR Dept.

Some people are still more equal than others? 

March played host to International Women’s Day. A time to hail the achievements of women around the world, but also to highlight gender inequality and the struggles that women face.

In the UK, much of the attention falls upon women in the workplace. Despite the fact that sex and pregnancy/maternity are two of nine protected characteristics enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, there is still much work to be done.

The good news is that progress is being made. What is not so good is that the rate of change is slow…very slow. Shadow Minister for Women and Equality Kate Green exclaimed recently that at current rates the gender pay gap will take nearly 50 years to close!

Employers that don’t (metaphorically!) embrace women in the workplace are missing out – when talents both similar and complementary to men’s are not being utilised success and efficiency in business are bound to suffer as a consequence.

So where’s progress being made? Let’s start at the top. Just five years’ ago only 12.5% of FTSE 100 board members were female. Today, a voluntary target of 25% has been met and no board is an all-male domain. Lord Davies, the author of a report investigating this, now advises that this target should be extended to 33% by 2020 and widened to include FTSE 350 firms. He would like to see improvements made within the executive structure below board level too.

Let’s turn our attention to sectors. While some traditionally male dominated jobs have opened up to women, for example women now make up half of Junior Doctors, others seem stubbornly resistant: technology, emergency services, taxi drivers and politics to name a few. Sometimes there may be practical considerations to overcome, but when it just comes down to a boys-club culture, that is inexcusable and completely counter-productive.

So as another International Women’s Day passes, we can say that positive developments are afoot, but they need to speed up. If you need help doing the right thing for your business and your workforce, talk to The HR Dept who can help with policies, remuneration guidance and culture.

Winter’s over but the freezes aren’t  

The bright yellow daffodils may tell us that Winter is over, but some freezes are still in the air. We are not talking about a late cold snap, but rather the government’s announcement that statutory pay rates will be frozen in 2016. These will include maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay, adoption pay and sick pay.

Normally these go up every April, so is this the effect of more cuts? Not really. Such rates are linked to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). As these actually fell during the period measured (by 0.1%) it was on the cards that statutory pay would therefore not rise.

Do you struggle with statutory pay rates? Don’t forget your local HR Dept offers an Advice Line service to help with these and all other HR issues.

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